follow us on

How To Add That Extra Umami Flavor To Well-Loved Filipino Dishes

Oyster sauce’s sweet, salty and umami flavors are often used in Vietnamese, Thai, and Cantonese dishes like noodles and stir fries. And if you don’t know what to cook at home, just stir-fry some meat, seafood and veggies, add a few dollops of oyster sauce, and you’re done. No need to add any more seasonings. As a versatile flavor enhancer, it can spruce up your favorite home-cooked Filipino recipes. Oyster sauce is a rich and concentrated sauce made by boiling oysters in water until the juices caramelize into a thick and brown sauce. Soy sauce, brine, and different kinds of seasoning are added to intensify the flavor and to add color to the mix. Here are three well-loved Filipino dishes that you can easily spice up with a splash of oyster sauce:



Bring back your childhood memories with Manong fishball’s sauce

Filipinos love to be creative and innovative especially when it comes to food. Fishballs are known to be a staple Pinoy street food that we usually order during merienda. And these deep-fried fishy balls of goodness are always paired with that familiar sweet and spicy sauce that almost all fishball vendors seem to have. You can make your own fishball sauce at home. Just mix together soy sauce, brown sugar, flour, cornstarch, water, and even Sprite. Then add some oyster sauce into the mix to increase the sauce’s umami flavor.


Fishball (Photo by @jingyapbravo)


Recreate this Pahiyas Festival staple at home

Travel to Lucban, Quezon and you’ll find Pancit Habhab or Pansit Lucban being sold on the street, usually served on a banana leaf. It’s made by sautéing miki bihon noodles with pork, onion, garlic, sayote, and carrots. At times, even pork liver is added to the mix for extra fatty goodness. Habhab can be slurped directly from the banana leaf, or sandwiched into a warm pandesal bun. Best served hot, Pancit Habhab can be even further enriched with oyster sauce and an extra sprinkling of black pepper.  


Pancit Habhab (Photo by @tessggarcia)


Tweak your usual adobo with a splash of umami

Whether its pork, chicken, or veggies, adobo is a forever staple dish cooked in the home of almost every Filipino. While there are many variations around the country, adobo is essentially a cooking method that involves braising meat or veggies in vinegar. The most common recipe uses chicken and pork, with garlic, bay leaf, peppercorns, vinegar, and soy sauce. For a new take on adobo, why not substitute the soy sauce with a splash of oyster sauce for a stronger umami flavor? Just remember, adobo is best eaten the day after, when the flavors have sufficiently melded together for a richly satisfying braised dish.


Adobo (Photo by @markkiva)


These ideas were culled from the recent launch of Ajinomoto Sarsaya Oyster Sauce with actor Coco Martin as its endorser at Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar in Quezon City. Media participants were treated to a mini Filipino food crawl headed by award winning food writer, Ige Ramos. The food crawl started in a mini carinderia that served adobong kangkong and led to an event featuring fish balls, squid balls , and pancit habhab. Attendees were also given the chance to devour loads of balut and penoy and a warm cup of taho.



Ajinomoto Sarsaya Oyster Sauce is available in leading supermarkets nationwide.



Lead images by @markkiva, @jingyapbravo